Historical map of Memelland and the northern part of
Historical flag of the Memelland from 1919 to 1924 and
Postage stamps of the Klaipėda Region in use 1920-1925. The upper stamp is French with overprint in German "MEMEL". The other stamps are Lithuanian, one with overprint in Lithuanian and in German, the other without. The latter one was issued especially for postal use in the Klaipėda Region.
The Klaipėda Region (
Lithuanian: Klaipėdos kraštas) or Memel Territory (
German: Memelland or Memelgebiet) was defined by the
Treaty of Versailles in 1920 and refers to the most northern part of the German province of
East Prussia, when as Memelland it was put under the administration of the
Council of Ambassadors. The Memel Territory, together with the other parts severed from Germany, the
Danzig, was to remain under the control of the
League of Nations until a future day when the people of these regions would be allowed to vote on whether the land would return to Germany or not.
Curonian territory was requested by the duke of Masovia and confirmed to be conquered by the emperor and pope, Christianized and to be administered by the
Teutonic Knights, who constructed Memelburg ("Memel Castle") and the city of Memel (now usually known by its Lithuanian name
Klaipėda). In 1422, a border was drawn up between Prussia and Lithuania under the
Treaty of Melno, and this border existed up to 1918.
The then predominantly
ethnic German Memel Territory (
Prussian Lithuanians and Memellanders constituted the other ethnic groups), situated between
the river and the town of that name, was occupied by
Lithuania in the "
Klaipėda Revolt" of 1923. It was annexed by
Nazi Germany in March 1939 and immediately reintegrated into
East Prussia, just half a year before the outbreak of the
Second World War. In the final stages of the war in 1945 it was occupied by Soviet forces, and was formally annexed by the
Soviet Union in 1946, cleared of its native German population, and made a part of the
Lithuanian SSR in 1948. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it has been part of the
Republic of Lithuania, contained within
Tauragė Counties. The border that was established along the river by the
Treaty of Versailles remains in effect as the current international boundary between Lithuania and the
Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia.